(WASHINGTON)—The union for TSA employees—the American Federation of Government Employees—on Oct. 21, 2010 won unprecedented damages in a TSA Equal Employment Opportunity case involving the agency’s failure to adhere to the Rehabilitation Act. The ruling, though, was bittersweet since the Transportation Security Officer involved passed away before the decision was issued.
James Roop, a former TSO at Dulles International Airport who recently passed away, was awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages when the EEOC determined that he had been wrongfully terminated five years ago.
“AFGE took on Mr. Roop’s case all those years ago and never gave up,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “It’s quite sad that he will never know of his victory, and that his family will now be given the much-needed financial relief that was denied Roop when he was alive.
“This is just the latest example of AFGE’s strong representation on behalf of TSOs,” Gage said. “For nearly nine years, AFGE has been blazing a representation trail for TSOs system-wide. Make no mistake, AFGE is the only union with a record of representing TSOs from the beginning.”
The EEO suit resulted from the TSA’s discriminatory transfer of Roop, a disabled Transportation Security Officer from a teaching position to a screening position. Roop had a degenerative disability that, at the time of his removal, required him to use a cane when walking and standing. He had successfully performed the duties of a TSA Approved Instructor (TAI) and received an “exceeds” rating on his annual performance review. Despite this performance, TSA arbitrarily transferred him from the teaching position to a screening position, which required up to 8 hours of standing. As a result of this illegal transfer, the TSO had no choice but to request disability retirement. AFGE subsequently filed a complaint with the EEOC on his behalf alleging constructive removal and discrimination based on disability.
On April 6, 2009, an EEOC administrative judge found that the Assistant Federal Security Director at Dulles Airport did not believe that the TSA was required to follow the Rehabilitation Act and the HR Specialist assigned to monitor requests for disability accommodation didn’t understand “basic tenets” of the law. Furthermore, in a chilling indictment, the judge found that the TSA’s attempt to justify its discriminatory actions was “disingenuous” and that the TSA’s “actions [were] both sufficiently illogical and unreasonable to render its articulated reason unworthy of credence.”
The judge awarded the TSO back pay and an unprecedented $150,000 in compensatory damages, as well as attorney fees. TSA fought the case and filed an appeal, but on Oct. 21, the Office of Federal Operations (an appellate arm of the EEOC) upheld the earlier decision in Roop’s favor.
AFGE has been the only union to represent TSA employees since the agency's inception and with more than 12,000 members in 38 Locals across the country, is widely recognized as the TSA union.